Employees can bring many things to the office, but workplace vision is not one of them. Vision is an element of organizational culture, and culture derives most directly from the actions and choices of leaders at all levels.
But what does it mean for a leader to instill vision in to a workplace? What does this look like in practice?
You may remember the plant manager, described in a previous post, who so eloquently linked the requirements of a new manufacturing process to the real, human impact it would have on the lives of the company’s clients.
Two years before that episode, that manager had only recently been hired, and was working to drive the new process into the plant through the rigid application of top-down authority.
Offering no real ownership of the process to employees, he faced (or more accurately, created for himself) numerous challenges.
His top-level managers voiced support only because it was politically expedient to do so. His shop workers used his “fancy” system only resentfully and avoided it in whatever ways possible.
And though a few realized the potential inherent in the new process, most awaited the day that the new manager would go away and the plant would return to “normal.”
The story could have ended in disaster, but happily did not. As time wore on the manager began honestly considering his employees’ views of himself, the effects (both intended and otherwise) of his leadership style, and his hopes and desires for the plant.
Reassessing the foundations of his approach to leadership, he began articulating in more understandable and accessible terms the passion for the work that he had had all along.
In doing so, he instilled a far deeper sense of purpose and meaning in the process he was trying to introduce. He created a vibrant vision of the future for his employees to embrace. And as he more clearly communicated and more consiously modeled this vision, he gradually won the commitment of employees from frontline staff to senior management.
Vision can be a crucial catalyst of organizational change, but it always begins at the top. Moreover, it often, perhaps always, demands the kind personal introspection — challenging and sometimes difficult — that this leader was willing to undertake.
What is my below-the-line understanding of vision and the role it plays in the workplace? How is that understanding manifested in my day-to-day choices? How do others perceive the choices I am making?
Vigilant reflection on questions such as these is key to helping your organization become more committed, enthusiastic, and vision-driven.